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What is anemia in dogs?

Anemia in dogs is typically a symptom of a serious underlying health issue that requires urgent veterinary care. Here, our Port Jefferson vets explain the different types of anemia we see in dogs, including causes, symptoms, and treatments. 

Why Anemia Occurs in Dogs

Anemia can develop in your dog if they lose a lot of blood due to trauma or illnesses like stomach ulcers or cancer, or if your dog's body is unable to produce enough hemoglobin or red blood cells.

If your dog has anemia, it's a good indication that your pet is suffering from an underlying condition or disease that requires urgent veterinary attention.

Types of Regenerative Anemia in Dogs

If your dog has regenerative anemia, it means that blood loss or cell destruction is preventing the bone marrow from supplying the body's needs, even though it is producing red blood cells normally.

Blood Loss Anemia

  • Blood loss anemia is a type of regenerative anemia in dogs that can result from severe blood loss due to a bleeding disorder, accident, injury, or surgery. Internal bleeding can also lead to blood loss anemia and may occur due to parasites, cancer, ulcers, or other serious health conditions.

Immune-Mediated & Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

  • The body of your dog suffers from hemolytic anemia, which is also known as immune-mediated anemia and is characterized by the breakdown or devastation of red blood cells. This type of anemia is frequently a non-immune mediated form of the condition brought on by toxins, parasites, low phosphorus levels, hereditary diseases, or low phosphorus levels.

Aplastic or Non-Regenerative Anemia in Dogs

Canine aplastic anemia, also known as anemia of inflammatory disease (AID) or non-regenerative anemia, is characterized by the insufficient production of red blood cells. Dogs commonly experience aplastic or non-regenerative anemia due to bone marrow disease, kidney disease, exposure to toxins, the parvovirus, chemotherapy drugs, and other medications.

Methemoglobinemia in Dogs

  • Genetic disorders can lead to too much methemoglobin in the blood and result in methemoglobinemia in dogs. Methemoglobinemia can also result from exposure to toxins, including human medications, such as benzocaine, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.

Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

The symptoms shown by your dog will depend upon the type of anemia they are suffering from and the underlying cause of the condition. The following are some of the most common symptoms of anemia in dogs.

  • Pale gums, eyes, or ears
  • Weakness or lethargy
  • Black stools
  • Fast pulse or rapid breathing
  • Swelling of the jaw or face
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Arrange for an examination with your veterinarian right away if your pet is exhibiting symptoms of anemia. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial when treating canine conditions that can cause anemia.

Causes of Anemia in Dogs

Anemia can result in dogs due to a number of serious health conditions such as:

  • Cushing’s disease
  • Chronic diseases suppress red blood cell production
  • Infectious diseases (such as canine distemper)
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Severe blood loss
  • Medications that interfere with the production of red blood cells
  • Poisons or toxins
  • Cancer
  • Tick-borne diseases
  • Poor nutrition
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Blood loss caused by parasites

Treatment for Anemia in Dogs

If your dog is diagnosed with anemia their treatment will depend upon the underlying cause of their condition. Your dog's treatment for anemia could include:

  • Intravenous fluids
  • Deworming
  • Parasite medications
  • Gastrointestinal medication
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgery
  • Change in existing medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Blood transfusion
  • Bone marrow transfusion
  • Potassium phosphate supplements

The Prognosis for Dogs with Anemia

Extremely serious, potentially fatal conditions like cancer, autoimmune disorders, or poisoning can cause anemia. Depending on whether we can effectively treat the underlying condition, the prognosis for dogs with anemia varies.

Preventing Anemia

The only way to stop the conditions that lead to canine anemia is to do so. Provide your dog with a healthy diet and the right amount of exercise, and keep toxic substances away from your dog (such as human food and medications).

Protecting your dog against worms, fleas, and ticks with year-round parasite prevention medications can also help to prevent your dog from developing anemia.

If your dog belongs to a breed that has a higher than average risk of developing anemia (such as Shih Tzus, Labrador Retrievers, American Cocker Spaniels, and Miniature Schnauzers), you should take your pup for a veterinary wellness exam every six months to monitor for early signs of the condition.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

If you think that your dog may be anemic, contact our Port Jefferson vets right away to book an examination for your pup.

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Jefferson Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Port Jefferson companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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